BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — With last Friday’s resounding 49-6 win over Oak Hill, defending Class AA state champion Bluefield all but locked up a playoff berth.
Not that the Beavers were in much jeopardy of missing out of the postseason, but with a 7-1 record, they’ve put themselves in position to have a chance at defending their state title.
The No. 5 Beavers also showed they had moved past a 17-3 loss to Lord Botetourt, Va., one week earlier that ended the program’s 20-game winning streak.
“It was devastating, but we realized we had to come together,” senior quarterback Chandler Cooper said. “(Last) Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we came to a realization that we’re going to play as a team. It was kind of a character check, and if we play as a team we realize what we can do.
“I don’t want to say it was a wake-up call, but it was more like coming to the realization that we know what we need to do.”
What the Beavers did against the Red Devils (6-2) was reel off 42 unanswered points in the first half to take a 49-6 lead into the locker room.
The teams agreed to play 8-minute quarters in the second half and the comfortable lead allowed the Beavers to rest starters and get less experienced players on the field.
“Oak Hill came out strong in the first quarter and kind of set the intensity of the game,” Cooper said. “But we all looked at each other and realized we needed to step things up and just play as a team and play as a unit.”
The Beavers displayed a variety of weapons in the win. Arnold Martin and Jamere ‘Juice’ Edwards each rushed for two touchdowns, Cooper threw for two scores and Drake Mullins, who had one of the two receiving touchdowns, provided a defensive TD on a 21-yard fumble return.
“You love to have it and you hope to have it all the time, but it doesn’t necessarily happen,” veteran Bluefield coach Fred Simon said of the defensive score. “It does help.”
With Mason Walker anchoring the offensive line and Sean Martin causing disruption off the edge defensively, Bluefield used its superior size and physicality to its advantage.
The Beavers were also sound on special teams, blocking a punt that set up the game’s first touchdown and utilizing the right leg of Kaulin Parris to convert all seven of their point-after kicks.
The performance impressed Oak Hill coach Jason Blankenship, who didn’t see a major difference in this year’s BHS team from the one that finished 14-0 last year and featured Kennedy Award-winning tailback Mookie Collier and two-way standout Truck Edwards.
“Last year, with Mookie and Truck they were very explosive. They were maybe a little easier to figure out what they were going to do, because you knew Mookie and (Truck) Edwards were going to get the football,” Blankenship said. “This year, you look out there and they have kids all over the field.
“Now you’re looking at four or five guys, plus the huge offensive line. The quarterback does a great job of just managing and playing within himself. Comparing them to last year, they’re just as good I believe. Maybe not the big-play dynamic with Mookie, but overall they’re going to be hard to defend with that many good players on the field.”
Bluefield now turns its attention to this week’s contest at James Monroe (6-2) before finishing the regular season at Woodrow Wilson (2-6). Winning both games would guarantee the Beavers staying home for at least the first round of the postseason and perhaps as many as three playoff games as they seek a repeat trip to Wheeling Island Stadium.
But Simon knows his team will need to continue to display improvement down the stretch, even from a defense that’s allowed only 79 points (9.9 per game) all season.
“We’re going to have to block better up front, we’re going to have to do a little better job defensively,” Simon said. “There’s all kinds of things in our game that have to improve for us to get there and we can see that.”